MONTREAL — A Quebec television network says it’s not responsible for the virulently anti-Israel opinions expressed by one of its program hosts, but it did express regret for any offence.
On Nov. 2, Stéphane Gendron, co-host of the talk show Face à Face on V Television, accused Israel of avenging Palestine’s admission to UNESCO by “build[ing] 2,000 homes in areas that do not belong to them, the occupied territories, so they are going to bulldoze people, kill people, they will give them five minutes to get out and then they’ll run people down with bulldozers. And Canada supports that.”
HonestReportingCanada (HRC), a pro-Israel media watchdog group, objected, saying Gendron is claiming Israel “indiscriminately murders innocent Palestinians” in a complaint to Maxime Rémillard, CEO of Remstar, the media corporation that owns the French-language, over-the-air network, formerly known as TQS.
HRC executive director Mike Fegelman said that the network’s response amounts to “condoning a vicious anti-Israel libel.”
Diane Patenaude, V’s communications director, replied that: “Face à Face is a public affairs show that touches on numerous topics of interest and aims to provoke debate and discussion. This program is neither a news telecast nor a news magazine, and its hosts are not journalists.
“The opinions expressed on the program are those of the individual hosts or their guests. As such, they do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the V television network or its management.”
Patenaude said V management did remind the show’s production team of the need to adhere to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council guidelines, “in order to avoid repeating a similar occurrence.”
Fegelman says the response is unsatisfactory, because viewers are “still under the false impression that Israel has a plan to indiscriminately” kill Palestinians.
“Gendron’s accusations [on Face à Face] crossed the line from legitimate opinion to inflammatory libel, a frequent occurrence for this habitual anti-Israel offender,” Fegelman said, adding that the network is responsible for the information that it broadcasts.
He points out that this was the second egregious comment about Israel in as many months that Gendron has made on Face à Face. On Sept. 23, he said, “Before 1948… the Jews stole the land from the Palestinians” and “It’s the Jews that invented terrorism.”
Gendron, 43, who is also mayor of the small town of Huntingdon and a former Parti Québécois political aide, has a history of making inflammatory remarks about Israel.
In 2006, he said that “Israelis are the Nazis of modern times,” and since then he has accused Israel of war crimes and crimes against humanity, even genocide.
In a Journal de Montréal column last year, he compared the Gaza Strip to the Warsaw Ghetto.
HRC is now demanding of V “at the very least, a public apology, the issuance of a corrective, as well as disciplining Gendron for his vicious attack on Jews and Israel.” In fact, HRC recommends that Gendron be fired immediately.
HRC is also asking the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council to intervene.
Fegelman said more than 150 HRC members registered complaints with V Television, and the clip of Gendron’s remarks that HRC posted on YouTube was viewed more than 20,000 times.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) would also like to see an on-air correction and apology, said David Ouellette, associate director of Quebec public affairs.
CIJA, however, has made no representations to the network or Gendron about this incident.
Ouellette said Gendron has a history of making repeated “exceedingly vile” comments about Israel and Jews, and especially egregious are those drawing a Nazi analogy.
But Ouellette believes Gendron is losing influence and credibility within the francophone media. Since last spring, he no longer has a weekly column in Le Journal de Montréal, Ouellette noted.
“He has been taken to task time and again by his fellow Québécois journalists… He has been marginalized.”
The show Face à Face, which airs weekday mornings, is “not exactly a top show… It’s not prime time.”
CIJA thinks V Television is wrong in claiming it does not have responsibility for opinions expressed on non-news programming, but Ouellette does commend the network for reiterating to its staff the need to abide by the broadcast council’s code.
While not diminishing the unacceptability of Gendron’s remarks, Ouellette said CIJA is more concerned with Radio-Canada’s “dismal record” in its coverage of Israel and has filed a number of complaints to the network.
“Radio-Canada is the public broadcaster and is accountable to taxpayers. It is also influential in setting the tone for journalistic standards.”